The Case for Women Workers
It has now been established that empowering women and girls is not only morally right, but also an economically smart move. Women empowerment has accelerated growth both in developing economies as well as developed ones. Bangladesh is a prime example of women empowerment in this region.
Pakistan’s population was 180 million in 2014 and its labour pool was 53.8 million. The population of Bangladesh was 160 million and its labour pool was 70.9 million. Bangladesh had a larger labour pool compared to Pakistan despite its lower population and even lower industrial base, because it had created employment for its women in the garment industry.
The garment industry employs more workers, but the work requires skill rather than muscle. Women are more suited in stitching, packing, and designing compared to men, who are better able to handle hard labour effectively. Bangladesh employs 30 million women in its garment industry.
Sadly, that labour force is missing in our textile industry. Even in garment manufacturing, more than 85 percent workers are men. Had these jobs been provided to the women, the men could have been shifted to more strenuous jobs. This would have accelerated growth. Pakistan’s total annual exports are $22.5 billion men however while that of Bangladesh are $35 billion.
Pakistan’s textile exports are 12.4 billion dollars, while Bangladesh’s textile exports have crossed 28 billion dollars. In other words, the contribution of women in total exports of Pakistan is less than 15 percent.
Bangladeshi women on the other hand, contribute 81 percent to their exports. Planners as well as men need to understand that women generally do not encroach on their jobs, rather men do so. It is economically more feasible to let women work alongside men in at least the textiles sector to encourage growth.
A report by UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel shows that greater gender equality in a country is associated with better education and health, higher per capita income, faster and more inclusive economic growth, and greater international
competitiveness. The business case for gender quality is also compelling, because women make substantial contributions to all parts of the value chain.
It has been found that when women act as designer, supplier, contractor, marketer, and distributor or sourcing of input is from women owned enterprises, it strengthens the brand and improves access to premium markets. In fact, studies show that having women board members increases return on assets. Wherever women are inducted as business leaders or are added as board members; one more woman in the senior management or corporate board is associated with eight to 13 basis point higher returns on assets.
It is worth noting that companies in top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above the national industry mean. As far as the buying decisions are concerned (the ultimate source of income for goods and services providers), women make or influence 80 percent of the buying decision and control 20 trillion dollars in global spending. Brand value and reputation is closely linked to a commitment to women who enhance company’s reputation and brand. Women are the main community members that influence the market on product sales and reputation.
Women are deprived of equal economic opportunities and constrained from financial access and control which systemically keeps them out of the workforce. Adverse social norms add to the limits imposed on women, constricting their movement and participation, thus creating a gap in the workforce.
Women are also given fewer work choices. Due to such discriminatory attitudes and gaps in law, women often end up working as unpaid labour or are only offered low paying jobs. Systemic constraints contribute to the deprivation of women in gaining equal economic opportunities.
Sadly, the society in Pakistan has failed to recognise or reduce the weight of unpaid domestic work imposed on women. Working women are expected to serve all the domestic chores after coming back from their job, whereas men are encouraged to relax and rest after working hours. Women who do all the housework and domestic chores are not compensated monetarily for their labour.
These added responsibilities at home also affect their efficiencies at paid work, and diminish their chances of getting a promotion. On top of these are the gaps in access to digital, financial, and property assets. This gap mostly deprives them from owning an enterprise, even if they are the main force in operating the setup.
Some highly skilled women are more beneficial for the economy if they are allowed to work without the hassle of domestic chores that make them tired and reduce their stamina required at their job. The major issue is the unpaid work, which needs to be reduced and divided. This problem can be addressed in multiple ways. The first method is that instead of burdening just the women with unpaid care and domestic chores, men begin taking similar responsibilities.
The second method can be reducing and redistributing the time required for unpaid care responsibilities through investments by both the private and public sectors. Such investments can provide infrastructure, affordable care services, family leave, and familyfriendly workplaces.
These investments will not only benefit women and individual families, but also benefit the economy at large. These investments will help the economy achieve growth and also increase women’s labour-force participation rates and productivity, besides creating paid jobs in care services, and improve children’s school performance, boosting their future educational-attainment levels and productivity.